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Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities 2022-23: Hess Scholar-in-Residence

About Barbara Smith

Barbara Smith smiling, wearing polka dot shirt and looking to the side.

Barbara Smith is an author, activist, and independent scholar who has played a groundbreaking role in opening up a national cultural and political dialogue about the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender. She was among the first to define an African American women’s literary tradition and to build Black women’s studies and Black feminism in the United States. She has been politically active in many movements for social justice since the 1960s.

She has edited three major collections about Black women: Conditions: Five, The Black Women’s Issue (with Lorraine Bethel, 1979); All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies (with Gloria T. Hull and Patricia Bell Scott, 1982); and Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, 1983. She is also the co-author with Elly Bulkin and Minnie Bruce Pratt of Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism, 1984. She is the general editor of The Reader’s Companion to U. S. Women’s History with Wilma Mankiller, Gwendolyn Mink, Marysa Navarro, and Gloria Steinem, 1998. A collection of her essays, The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom was published by Rutgers University Press in 1998. Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, edited by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks with Barbara Smith was published by SUNY Press in November, 2014.

She was cofounder and publisher until 1995 of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color. She resides in Albany, New York and served two terms as a member of the Albany Common Council from 2006 to 2013. From 2014 to 2017 she served as the Special Community Projects Coordinator for the City of Albany helping to implement the Equity Agenda.

Books by Barbara Smith

Combahee River Collective Statement

The Combahee River Collective Statement
“A Black Feminist Statement” (1977) was written by Barbara Smith, her twin sister Beverly Smith, and Demita Frazier, as the manifesto of the Combahee River Collective, and it serves as an early articulation of identity politics by demanding that African American women speak for themselves, and that they determine their own issues of concern. The statement marked a new era in feminism and other liberation movements by criticizing separatist movements and demanding a coalitional politics among groups of different identities.

Articles and Works About Barbara Smith